Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie
M. Night Shyamalan is truly a victim of his on ego. Anyone being completely honest has to admit that Shyamalan has a great sense of timing, creating atmosphere, and an almost Spielberg sense of visuals. The problem is that early on Shyamalan bought into his own hype just a little to much and many of his films, most notably Lady in the Water, were crushed under the weight of his ego. The Sixth Sense, easily his most successful film, has the least re-watch value. Perhaps his best film, Unbreakable was misunderstood because it was made about 10 years too early. Some part of me has always held out hope that Shyamalan could reign in his ego, find a team of collaborators (most importantly a writer), and simply shine as the amazing director I know he can be. Just write a treatment sir and let an objective writer handle the script, please.
So yeah Shyamalan wrote this film unfortunately. I really believe his best work will come when he finally collaborates with a great writer. With that said, The Visit may be his best film since Signs. Yes I believe Signs even with its flaws is a good film. The Visit is a genre bender blending equal parts humor and horror. This is a dangerous tightrope to walk because too much humor can make the horror elements campy and just not scary. The scares in The Visit play on traiditonal scare tactics that have been utilized by filmmakers since the genre was put on film. There’s absolutely nothing new in the scare department but the almost fantasy-like atmosphere adds a storybook weirdness to them that will probably help these formula tricks still work on many viewers.
My favorite part of the film overall is that it does feel like a Grimm’s Fairytale as told by David Cronenberg. You could literally see kids sitting around a campfire telling the story of a brother and sister sent to visit with Grandparents they’ve never meant in hopes of rebuilding a family. The scene shown in the trailers with Nana asking Becca (the older sister) to get in the oven to clean it is funny but it also harkens to Hansel and Gretel. Those hoping for a traiditonal horror may be disappointed because all of the humor is just as important as the scares. Like the scares some of the humor falls flat but some of it really works. Becca is documenting the trip to create a documentary film for her mother, so the entire film is told through documentary style footage supposedly shot by amateurs. For the most part the footage makes you believe that a young girl and her younger brother did shoot it but when the footage, and edits feel to professional it can be jarring. One annoying thing that only filmmakers are going to notice is that Becca is using Final Cut Pro to edit her film on a Sony Viao laptop. Final Cut Pro is an Apple application that only runs on Apple computers.
The two children carry the film on their shoulders and overall they manage it well. They are both solid actors that should have long careers. Ed Oxenbould as young Tyler gets most of the laughs as a germaphobe wannabe wrapper and more often than not he really is funny. There are a few instances where his shtick gets a little grating but mostly he’s charismatic and fun. Olivia DeJonge plays it much more straight but she is responsible for delivering some jabs at Hollywood and making some jokes about filmmaking in general. To be fair though I don’t know if Shyamalan is the one to be making jabs at Hollywood because well, he’s had his own issues throughout his career as previously briefly mentioned.
Overall The Visit is return to form for Shyamalan. The film isn’t perfect and it often doesn’t work but when it does it’s great fun. Hopefully this is a baby step toward him doing something really great. The atmosphere works, shyamalan does a great job with the entire cast but with the kids in particular, and both the humor and the horror get moments to shine. I do wish all of the jabs at Hollywood convention meant Shyamalan was doing something innovative with this film but he really isn’t bringing anything new to the table.